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[IMP] The portrait of a lady class 11 summary | Class 11 English chapter 1 Notes

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The Portrait of a Lady Summary

 (Khuswant Singh)


The chapter ‘The Portrait of a Lady’ is the story of the author and his grandmother. The grandmother was an old woman with a wrinkled face. The author had always seen her like this, for the past twenty years. She appeared to be so old that he could not imagine her being ‘young and pretty’, someone who had a husband. She was short, fat and slightly bent. 

The author had seen his grandfather’s portrait- an old man with a turban and a long white beard covering his chest. To the author, his grandfather didn’t seem like a man who could have a wife and children, but someone who could have lots of grandchildren. 

His grandmother used to move around the house in ‘Spotless White’ with her one hand resting on her waist and her other hand counting the beads of her rosary. 

In the initial days, the author and his grandmother had a good relationship. She used to wake him up and get him ready for school. She used to pack the things required by him for the day and walked him to school everyday. She used to visit the temple that was attached to the school. She had a routine of reading the scriptures. The author along with other children sat on the verandah singing alphabets and morning prayers. They both used to come back home together with stray dogs roaming around them as his grandmother would carry the stale chapattis to feed them. 

Soon, the parents of the author who went to the city to settle in and called them. As they reached the city, his relationship with his grandmother took a turn. Though they shared the room, there bond grew apart. He started going to an English medium school, she no longer accompanied him to his school, and there 2 were no longer stray dogs who roamed around them while walking back home. She, however, used to ask him about his day and what he had learned. She didn’t understand anything as everything was in another language which she could not understand. She didn’t approve of the new syllabus that he was studying because she thought that they did not teach him about God and the scriptures. They saw less of each other. 

As the days passed, he grew older and soon went to the university. He had his own room and this made their relationship sour. 

She stopped talking to everyone and spent her whole day sitting at her spinning wheel, reciting prayers and moving beads of the rosary with one hand. However, she loved feeding sparrows in the verandah at dawn. Breaking bread into pieces and feeding it to the birds was her daily routine. The birds would sit on her legs, her head, some even on the shoulders. 

Soon, the author decided to go abroad for further studies. She came to the railway station to leave him off. She was not sentimental, continuously recited her prayers, her mind lost in the prayers, and she kissed him on the forehead. After five years, as he returned home, she was there, came to pick him at the station, was still the same as she had been five years ago. She clasped him within her arms and didn’t say a word. She still used to feed her sparrows. 

One day, she didn’t recite her prayers but instead collected the women of the neighbourhood, got a drum and started singing. The next morning, she was ill with mild fever. The doctor said that there was nothing to worry about but she was sure that her end was near. 3 She didn’t want to waste her time talking to anyone in the family anymore but spend her last hours in reciting her prayers laying on the bed. She died and so her body lay on the bed, lifeless. As they prepared for her funeral, they saw all the sparrows sitting in the verandah around her, mourning her death.


 The Portrait of a Lady Importat Points 

  • When the author Khuswant Singh, was a little child, his parents left him in the village with his grandmother and went to live in the city. 
  •  The author’s grandmother was an old lady, she was very religious. The author shared a very close bond with his grandmother. They became very good friends. 
  • The grandmother woke him up, dressed him and accompanied him to school. The school was attached to te temple. While the author was at school, the grandmother used to read the scriptures in the temple. 
  •  When the author’s parents were well settled, he and his grandmother also wento to the city. It proved a turning point in their friendship. 
  • In the city, Khuswant Singh attended an English school and travelled in a motor bus. He learnt Englishwords and topic of western science. 
  •  The grandmother could no longer accompany him to his school nor help him in his studies. However they shared the same room. 
  •  When the author went to the university, he was given a separate room. Thus the last link of their friendship was broken. 
  •  After that he went to abroad and came back after 5 years and was received by his grandmother at the station. She was at the station and did not look day older. 
  • In the evening, the grandmother did not pray and instead collected the women of the neighbourhood and celebrated the grandson’s homecoming. 
  • The grandmother fell ill the next day and she knew that her end was near. 
  • She stopped talking and closed her eyes. She was lost in her prayersand counting the beads of her rosary. Suddenly, the rosary fell down and her lips stopped moving. She was dead. 
  • Thousands of sparrows assembled in the room and sat quietly to mourn her death. They did not even eat the crumbs given by the author’s mother. 
  • After the grandmother’s body was taken for cremation. The sparrows flew away silently. 




Class 11 English The Portrait of Lady Word Meanings 

Page No. 3 [NCERT - HORNBIL]

Portrait- word picture, 

wrinkled- full of creases or folds; 

pretty- charming,

mantel piece– shelf above a fireplace

turban- head gear

revolting- disgusting

absurd- ridiculous, 

undignified - not respectable, 

fables- legendary tales with moral lessons, 

prophets- God’s messengers, 

slightly–a little, 

criss-cross- intersecting lines, 

Page No.4 [NCERT - HORNBIL]

Terribly-frightening, 

hobbled–walked lamely, 

stoop - swoop or bent of the body, 

beads of her rosary- small balls of a string of beads used for prayer. 

silver locks–white hair, 

scattered-spread, 

untidily–in a disorderly manner, 

puckered–wrinkled, 

inaudible–which could not be heard, 

landscape–the portion of land one can see at one glance, 

expanse– wide extent,

serenity–calmness, 

contentment–mental peace, 

constantly–all the time, 

monotonous–in the same tone, 

sing–song–dull, 

fetch–bring, 

plastered– covered,smeared,  

tiny earthen–small, made of earth, 

stale–not fresh, attached on the same building. 

alphabet– letters,; rows–straight lines,

In achorus–together, 

scriptures– holy books. 

growling–making angry sound, 

turning point– a point of marked change, 

courtyard–open space, 

rolled by–passed

 Page 5 [NCERT - HORNBIL]

distressed–pained, 

lewd–vulgar, indecent, 

association- connection,; 

monopoly– one’s exclusive right, harlots prostitutes, 

disapproval–dislike, 

snapped–broken.

seclusion– aloofness, 

resignation–without complaint reciting ,

relaxed–took a break, rested, 

veritable–truly 

bedlam–noisy confusion as in a madhouse, 

chirruping–sound made by birds, 

perched–sat, 

shooed away–drove away, 

abroad–outside the country, upset disturbed, 

sentimental–carried away by emotions, cherished–held as dear, moist damp, imprint–impression,

 clasped–embraced, 

frivolous–light-hearted, rebukes-scolding, thumped–beat, sagging–hanging loosely, 

Page 6 [NCERT - HORNBIL]

dilapidated—ruined, old and worn-out, 

warrior—fighter, 

persuade—bring her round, advise, 

over straining—very tiring, 

omitted—missed 

protested—opposed, 

ignored—paid no heed to, 

suspect—have an inkling, customary ritual, as per custom, 

pallor— paleness, 

shroud—cloth spread over a dead body, mourning lamentation, 

funeral—last rites, 

cremation. blaze–glow, ; 

stiff—motionless, hard , 

wrapped covered, scattered—all over, 

chirping—sound, 

crumbs—bits, 

pieces corpse—dead body, 

dustbin—wastebasket, 




Class 11 English chapter 1 The Portrait of Lady Summary 

class 11 english hornbill chapter 1 short summary will help you to revise the chapter in short period of time class 11 english ch 1 short notes in given below. short summary of the portrait of a lady class 11


The Portrait of a Lady’ is written in first person and is in the biographical mode. In this story, the writer gives a detailed account of his Grandmother with whom he had a long association. Khushwant Singh recalls his Grandmother as short, fat and slightly bent. Her silver hair was scattered untidily on her wrinkled face. She hobbled around the house in white clothes with one hand resting on her waist and the other telling the beads of her rosary. 

Khushwant Singh remembers her as not very pretty but always beautiful. He compares her serene face to that of a winter landscape, During their long stay in the village, Grandmother woke him up in the morning, plastered his wooden slate, prepared his breakfast, and escorted him to school. While he studied alphabets, she read the scriptures in the temple attached to the school. On their way back home she fed stale chapattis to stray dogs. 

The turning point in their relationship came when they went to live in the city. Now, the author went to a city school in a motor bus and studied English, law of gravity, Archimedes’ principle and many more things which she could not understand at all. Grandmother could no longer accompany him to school nor help him in his studies. She was upset that there was no teaching of God and scriptures at city school. Instead he was given music lesson which, according to her, was not meant for gentlefolk. But she said nothing. 

When Khushwant Singh went to a university, he was given a separate room. The common link of their friendship was snapped. Grandmother rarely talked to anyone now. She spent most of her time sitting beside her spinning wheel, reciting prayers, and feeding the sparrows in the afternoon. When the author left for abroad, Grandmother did not get disturbed.

 Rather, she saw him off at the railway station. Seeing her old age, the narrator thought that it was his last meeting with her. But, contrary to his thinking, when he returned after a span of five years, Grandmother was there to receive him. She celebrated the occasion by singing songs of the home coming of warriors on an old dilapidated drum, along with the ladies of the neighbourhood. 

Next morning she got ill. Although the doctor said it was a mild fever and would go away soon, she could foresee that her end was near. She did not want to waste time talking to anyone. She lay peacefully in bed praying and telling the beads till her lips stopped moving and the rosary fell from her lifeless fingers. To mourn her death thousands of sparrows flew in and sat scattered around her body.

 There was no chirruping and when Khushwant Singh’s mother threw breadcrumbs to the sparrows, they took no notice of the bread. They flew away quietly when the dead body of Grandmother was carried away for last rites.


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